Jun 20, 2011
Recently, West Virginia state investigators found that a combination of ineffective ventilation, an ineffective sprinkler system, excessive coal dust, faulty safety equipment, failed water pumps and ignored safety checks caused an accumulation of an explosive mixture of methane and coal dust in underground tunnels in the Upper Big Branch coal mine. A spark was enough to ignite the massive explosion that ripped through Massey Energy’s mine on April 5, 2010 and killed 29 miners.
Before the explosion, mine workers had been reporting these dangers regularly. Over five years’ time, government inspectors cited the mine for 1,342 safety violations. In January 2010, a Federal inspector reported that the underground air was flowing in the wrong direction, and the rock dusting system, which is used to spread crushed limestone on tunnel surfaces to prevent coal dust build up, was not operational. He found coal dust everywhere.
Massey was allowed to operate the mine. The government did nothing to enforce any of its own safety regulations.
Since the explosion little has changed. In May 2011, Federal inspectors at Massey’s Randolph mine in Boone County, West Virginia, issued 20 citations for excessive coal dust, weak water sprayers on mining equipment, illegal use of mining machines and failure to properly ventilate areas being mined. These were the same kind of safety lapses that occurred before the explosion in the Upper Big Branch mine.
But, once again, Massey continues to operate.
When it comes to a choice between miners’ lives and company profits, the government chooses profits every time.